Fans control ACM fate of regional country artists

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- To say Luke Bryan and the Lost Trailers are taking a different approach to the ongoing vote for their respective top new solo vocalist and top new vocal group Academy of Country Music Awards nominations is like saying daytime is taking a different approach than night to the amount of sunlight it gives off.

While the Trailers have chosen the low-key approach, appealing for fan votes mostly through its Web site, Bryan has recruited some high-profile names in the music, entertainment and sports industries to participate in an "I'm Voting for Luke Bryan (Don't Vote for Luke Bryan)" campaign video that has gone viral on the Web.

With everyone from country music veterans Kenny Rogers and Mel Tillis to the young country stars in the groups Lady Antebellum and Little Big Town to actresses Haylie Duff and Jeanette McCurdy to baseball's Chipper Jones and Mark McGwire weighing in, the video has become a must-watch for country music fans ... if only for the sight of Bryan in a leotard dancing to Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."

Bryan, a native of Leesburg, is challenging Jamey Johnson and Chris Young for ACM's top new vocalist in a competition that will be decided by fan vote. That vote concludes Friday.

The Lost Trailers, a band co-founded by Albany's Geoffrey Stokes Nielson that also includes his brother Andrew Nielson, co-founder Ryder Lee, Jeff Potter and Manny Medina, are battling the Eli Young Band and Gloriana for fan voting in the top new vocal group category.

The top vote-getters (www.VoteACM.com) in those categories and the winner in the top new vocal duo, whose nominees are Joey + Rory, Bomshel and Steel Magnolia, will square off in a three-artist race for the top new artist award that will be handed out April 18 in Las Vegas.

"We're really not doing anything special this time around," Andrew Nielson said Wednesday when asked about the band's efforts to attract votes. "We really went all-out last year (when the Trailers were also nominated), and that kind of fizzled. So we're just getting the word out to our fans and hoping they'll vote for us."

In addition to his hilarious video clip, Bryan is appealing directly to fans in and around Southwest Georgia to help him in his cause.

"My home state is always rallying around me with love and support, so I reach out to the community again to ask for a little more love with this ACM campaign," Bryan said in response to a Herald e-mail. "Thanks, Georgia."

The phenomenon that is Lady Antebellum's hot crossover single "Need You Now" -- which itself garnered ACM nominations for single record as artist and producer, song as artist and composer, and video of the year -- helped that trio garner a leading seven nominations. Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood followed with six nominations each.

"You always hear about the power of a great song, and there's no doubt that 'Need You Now' has definitely been a career-changer for us ... But seven nominations?" Lady A's Dave Haywood said. "We are blown away."

The band also received nods for top vocal group and album of the year.

Taylor Swift, who has also enjoyed breakout crossover appeal and recently won four Grammy Awards, received five ACM nominations, while Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and the Zac Brown Band received four each. Zac Brown provides another Georgia connection at the event with lead singer Brown raised Dahlonega.

Underwood, Chesney, Swift, Paisley, the Zac Brown Band, George Strait, Keith Urban and Toby Keith were the nominees for the Academy of Country Music Awards' top honor, entertainer of the year.

Bryan, meanwhile, called on Phillip Sweet and Kimberly Schlapman of Little Big Town; Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum; country stars -- past and present -- Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Little Jimmy Dickens, Emily West, Rogers, Tillis, Jon Lajoie; Too Slim and Ranger Doug of Riders in the Sky; comedian Jeff Dunham (with "Walter"), young actresses Duff and McCurdie; and baseball's Jones, McGwire, Tony LaRussa and Adam Wainwright to take part in his video.

The stars tell fans who think country artists appeal only to people who "are missing most of their teeth, married to their cousins, like singers who have two first names or who have used the term 'country and western'" not to vote for Bryan.

But Scott adds a qualifier to her message not to vote for the rising country star: "Unless you care about great country music," she says.

And, West warns in a conspiratorial whisper, "If you don't vote, he'll put the leotard back on."

The Associated Press and Herald Deputy News Editor Casey Dixon contributed to this story.